The Integrated TOP Design
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
Here are the major barriers that forced me back to the drawing board:
On road bikes and commuters, fenders are mounted in the steerer tube
‘U’ brakes use the steerer tube as a mounting point
Carbon road bikes don’t have a hole in the bottom of steerer
Mountain bikes have tapered steerer tubes - design requires additional piece/mold
The GPS antenna was facing downwards, presenting signal challenges.
So, we decided to explore the TOP of the steerer tube. The primary reason I didn’t go down this path initially was because of the star nut that is present in every single aluminum bike. Another consideration was the fact there are a growing list of companies offering integrated tools in the steerer tube that we would be up against on the MTB side of things - this is a niche segment however and only a minor hiccup.
If you don’t know what a star nut is: The star fangled nut — or 'star nut', as it's known — is pressed into the steerer tube and allows the fork and headset components to be pulled into place in the frame's head tube.
When comparing the top vs. bottom of the steerer tube, I recognized some major advantages to the TOP design:
All bikes have the same sized steerer tube at the top
Carbon steerer tubes use expansion plugs and can be removed from the top
GPS signal strength - the antenna is facing upwards, which is optimal.
It quickly became clear to me that although there were hurdles that came along with the TOP design, all things considered, it is the ideal placement since it could serve a wider audience.
So it began, Scott and I worked together to tackle a concept that occupied the TOP of the steerer tube, where the stem cap is on every bicycle. After some in-depth R&D and testing a variety of star nuts/expansion plugs, we came up with this concept, which we truly feel is a winner.
Sophisticated by nature, but simplistic by design, this concept not only houses an assortment of micro electronics, it also fulfills the two primary functions of a star nut or expansion plug:
Used as a means to apply preload to the headset bearings via the top cap and top cap bolt.
Used to supply additional stability to steerer tubes when tensioning stem bolts - this is evident in a carbon road bike.
The mechanical enclosure design concept:
1. The base of the CORE is threaded to serve one of the primary star nut functions - the fork and headset components to be tensioned (pre-loaded) into place.
2. The EXPANSION RING functions similarly to an expansion plug in a carbon road bike steerer - as the CASING is tensioned, the CORE is pulled upwards and the EXPANSION RING widens to provide stability to tension the stem bolts.
3. The CASING has a threaded upper outer edge that protrudes outwards so that it sits on the top of the steerer tube, above the stem.
4. The NUT serves the purpose of a bicycle’s stem cap and is tensioned with a custom tool - similar to the stem cap, the NUT is to be tensioned until there is no ‘play’ in the headset.
Once the NUT is tight, the process of replacing the star nut functionality is complete. Your preload has been applied to the headset bearings, and your stem bolts are ready to be tightened. Your bike is now as capable as ever, in fact, even more capable.
5. The ENCLOSURE houses all of the electronics (including battery) and has a slightly wider cap where the antenna sits facing upwards. The ENCLOSURE slides into the CASING and threads until flush with the NUT - the same custom tool provided is used to insert/remove the ENCLOSURE
5. The KEY (seen below) is used to secure and remove your ENCLOSURE for charging purposes. It is proprietary to snik and only the user will have the ability to remove the device.
YES, we recognize the risk of a thief accessing a KEY and using it to support their arsenal of equipment that helps them steal bikes, however:
Unique software engineering that leverages an accelerometer enables snik to provide UNAUTHORIZED REMOVAL NOTIFICATIONS
The risk of this happening are extremely low, and if the case, the user will still be notified of the removal and know they need to act immediately.
The biggest challenge surrounding the mechanical design is the size restraints that the GPS ENCLOSURE presents - we are using the smallest (but most powerful) electronics possible and a reduction in size is hardly an option. I say hardly because there are fractions (1/8) of a millimetre, here and there to be considered.
We needed to design a CASING that could replace the star nut (or expansion plug) functionality, while also holding a GPS ENCLOSURE - stuffing this all within a 20 millimetre diameter certainly seemed impossible, but that’s a word we’ve learned to ignore.
The battery lives inside the ENCLOSURE and is the largest element to integrate into the design - quite literally, the bigger the battery the more the juice. That said, we are currently testing out different solutions with some great initial results. Elliot brings a wealth of battery knowledge that otherwise would have been a steep, expensive and time consuming learning curve. The optimal battery paired with slick engineering that batches data and limits ‘sending’ frequency has shown promising test results.
Installing snik into a bicycle is very simple - simplicity was always top of mind throughout the (ongoing) design phase. The star nut is simple to remove (punch out) with a standard screw driver. An expansion plug (carbon road steerer) is even easier to remove and can be done in the matter of seconds.
NEXT WEEK on snikFM
A snik device takes less than one minute to install into a bicycle steerer tube. In this post, I will walk you through the steps to installing a snik and (finally) making your bike SMART.